Short Story: Agatha Burns on Metro Fiction

Today my new story Agatha Burns features on the Metro Fiction site. It’s a short fiction from my work of interrelated flashes in progress Flashes of Sadness and Light. For those who’ve read Flash and The Solid Table Fallacy you might recognise the character who had a walk on role in this new story.

Metro Mums – Submission Opportunity

Metro Moms Network is an online magazine which provides content aimed at urban parents topics including those related to both parenting and work-life. Metro Moms Network supports all parents, but particularly those who are starting up small businesses or doing freelancing work.

One element of the Metro Mums Network is the Metro Fiction slot. It’s editor is P.J. Kaiser, and editorial advisor Debra Marr both familiar to many from the #fridayflash community. The fiction slot  requires stories between 900 and 1100 words that will appeal to a largely female audience. Genres include fantasy, historical, literary, paranormal, romance, science fiction and women’s fiction. It is a fee paying market.

For more details see here and for full submission guidelines see here and for the metro fiction slot see here.

My story Agatha Burns will appear on Metro Fiction tomorrow, check back here for the link!

Emotional energy and the writer

The last few weeks have been full on writing my novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities and dealing with family life, getting back into the routine of school. One of my children has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. These children don’t like change, struggle with social situations and outside stimuli, noise, light, smells for example and are unable to organise themselves. School and homework are ongoing challenges both for the child (and the parent!). There is often a lot of frustration, stress and anger for the child. The other children in the family are also affected by the difficulties and need extra support. Where does this leave the novel writer (in this case me? ) Often mentally confused and emotionally fraught and yet I need resilience and persistence to keep going with a task that requires a lot of concentration and emotional investment in writing the story.

About two years ago, my dear mother in law had a stroke. She was very young and she was a great support, mentally, practically and emotionally to me. Unfortunately she was severely affected and while we still enjoy each other’s company, we can’t share conversations in the same way as we did before. Something has been lost. A sort of grief continues over time.

With this backdrop of real life. I need to find ways to again and again, lift myself up to the challenge, to take heart from the writing itself and also put heart back into it. I talk more on this topic today on about the kinds of things we as writers might do to continue to write and work when life isn’t easy and ways we can recoup our emotional energy – sometime through writing and sometimes by doing the things we love

What have your experiences been when life gets too much? Can you still find writing energy or how does your writing help you?

New Beginnings by Rebecca Emin Launches!

Last April I interviewed the lovely Rebecca Emin as part of my mother writer series. I first connected with and got to know Rebecca over Twitter and since then she has become a fantastic friend and my writing ‘twin’ as we share similar experiences of writing, submitting etc while looking after our young families. Many writers will be aware of Rebecca’s selflessness when it comes to supporting other writers and also causes – she’s involved in many charity anthologies. It is for these and many other reasons that I’m delighted to be involved in celebrating the official publication date of her debut novel for young readers (8-12) New Beginnings by Grimoire Books.

My Review of New Beginnings

Sam Hendry is moving on from primary school and her old friends. The transition is not easy. Sam finds herself the victim of bullying as she struggles to find her feet in her new school. Rebecca brilliantly captures the vulnerability and confusion of adolescence and convincingly portrays Sam’s experiences and thoughts. The feel good storyline of Sam finding her identity through her talent for music gives the book a great appeal for would be stars. Without giving too much away: the ending is just terrific. The book is a positive read for children as they move to this new stage in their lives. Despite the female protagonist, the book is not just for girls, my ten year boy was totally engrossed in Sam’s story and how it turned out. It’s a story that will appeal to any child daunted by change and relationships. I highly recommend this book for the 8-12 age group, it’s encouraging, engaging and a great read!

Join us over on Rebecca’s blog Ramblings of a Rusty Writer to find more details of the book and how Rebecca is celebrating today with competitions and giveaways!

By commenting here on this post and on the other blogs she lists you are in with a chance to win prizes – either one of Rebecca’s books, signed or free entry to a great writing competition.

You can read some reviews of New Beginnings (or buy it!) on or

For Irish buyers, it’s also available at Eason’s.

You may like to visit some of the other blogs helping Rebecca to celebrate today too.

Big congratulations to Rebecca and I hope you enjoy her book!

Write a Great Synopsis: Nicola Morgan knows how!

Nicola and her dog Amber

The Background

When I got the chance to review Nicola Morgan’s Write a Great Synopsis I was delighted. Nicola is the author of more than 90 books – covering both fiction and non-fiction. Her novel Wasted (which I absolutely loved) was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and her guide for writers Write to be Published has been much acclaimed. Like many writers, I’ve been daunted by having to write a synopsis. Having read Write a Great Synopsis I’m so sorry I didn’t have it the last time I wrote one and delighted that this time round I’ll be able to put the advice into practice.


The Book

What grabbed me straight away was Nicola’s no-nonsense but wry approach that’s familiar to me from her terrific blog on publishing. You know from the off that Nicola is going to tell it like it is, she’s not going to pretty it up or soft soap you but what she tells you is going to get you where you want to go. Her advice is direct and realistic, it is also very straightforward. Reading her step by step methods (she gives two alternatives) for writing the synopsis I could feel myself already becoming more relaxed about the process. She tells us the specific things we need to do, what is required within the synopsis and what isn’t and alleviates all the other worries about synopses that circulate the writer’s brain. She answers commonly asked queries about how to deal with complicated plots, several points of view or many themes. Nicola even suggests ways you might phrase elements of the synopsis to sidestep convoluted explanations. The book also includes “Synopsis Spotlights” – a synopsis clinic if you will on some real examples of synopses. If you are engaged in a novel or have reached the stage – like I have – where you will soon be writing a synopsis, Write a Great Synopsis is everything you need to know, put simply. It’s certainly made me feel more confident about the steps I need to take to write a synopsis that says just the right amount about the story in a way that will interest the agent or publisher. I highly recommend this book for any novel writer.

For more, check out the video trailer!

The Barking Mad Special Offer

Nicola Says: I have a crazy price promotion until the end of January: Write a GREAT Synopsis and Tweet RightThe Sensible Person’s Guide to Twitter will each be stupid cheap on Amazon. I’m aiming for 99p, but VAT and currency fluctuations, along with Amazon’s naughtiness, are making that hard to acheive. So, forgive me if it’s £1 or even – gasps – £1.02.

But only till the end of January. So hurry!
Write a Great Synopsis on Amazon UK – for Kindle AND laptops/ipads/etc if you download the FREE Kindle app

Tweet Right on Amazon UK – as above.

For non-UK purchases, please see the site and do a search for the titles.

The Brilliant Comp

If you’d like the chance of winning help with your synopsis, simply leave a relevant comment below or on any or each of the guest posts. (This could be a deep and meaningful comment or a plea to the gods of fortune to pick you!) For details of all the posts you can comment on (for your best chance) see Nicola’s blog (panel to right).

Prizes: 1st prize – a critique of your synopsis, at a mutually convenient time; plus a signed book of your choice, if available. 2nd prize – a critique of your synopsis. 3rd prize – a signed book of your choice, if available.

The Stinging Fly: Chat and Submissions

The Stinging Fly is a well respected literary magazine published from Ireland. It’s currently accepting submissions of poetry and short stories (postal) for it’s summer issue until Jan 31st and for all issues until Mar 31.For more details see here.

What’s it like to run a literary magazine these days? What are the challenges and what kind of shape is the short story in? These are some of the questions I asked Declan Meade, editor of the Stinging Fly in a Q & A on my blog (Random Acts of Optimism) on Check out the interview here.

The energy of intention & where the river of stones went

Hands up! Here’s a message from a mum of four who’s blog is about headspace and finding time to write and paying attention and who said she was going to participate in the River of Stones Project this January (posting a few lines of a mindful meditation or observance every day) but hasn’t had the time! The message is Sometimes you can’t do it all. I started on Jan 1st with a stones post, on the second day my computer ate my post, on the third day I mentally wrote a post and even took a picture (it was about the dumplings that I’d cooked in the stew). The next day I thought about what I might write about but none of these observances made it to the computer, which in a way doesn’t really matter. And here’s why.

I met many new people on the blog last year who enjoyed reading my Jan 2010 stones posts and I in turn enjoyed the observances blogged and tweeted by others. However the main point of the project is to orient ourselves towards small observances and mindfullness of place, time or emotion and as a whole, I’m doing that. In December, through Barbara Scully’s wonderful blog At My Kitchen Table I won a Thank You book created to raise money for the Irish Hospice Foundation. The book is on my hall table and just seeing it reminds me to be thankful for something even if I’m having a rotten day. I also encourage the children to write in it or remember what is good. So my orientation is towards reflection, observance and gratitude.

I read earlier in the month an article by Orna Ross on her creative intelligence blog about resolutions vs intentions and firmly agree when she says that

New year’s resolutions are often framed as negative injunctions (giving up, never again) and based on self-judgements and -criticism. Creative Intention is framed as a positive proposal, moving towards something you’d like to see more of in your life.

I particularly identify with the idea that there is movement involved in intentions, that you are orienting yourself towards how you want things to be and even in that first initial orientation is the energy that will propel you along the route you have turned towards. I’ve talked about this before in relation to identifying yourself as a writer – the act of turning towards writing in a positive way puts your mind in the frame of taking further decisions and achieving further momentum along that path.

It’s a question of putting yourself in the mindset of what you want to be engaged in. If you’ve ever been in the process of buying  a house you know that you suddenly see For Sales signs everywhere. Once you are in the mindset of an endeavour, signs and opportunities will become more obvious. Not miraculously of course – you are putting yourself in the way of them. For me, a serious orientation towards being a writer included being involved in blogging, twitter and a writer’s group as well as submitting more of my work. These actions in themselves have generated further connections and opportunities. Learning about flash fiction through #fridayflash (click the image on the sidebar) led me to blog about it, then to be quoted in a national newspaper, then to get involved in the National (UK) flash fiction day, for example. Blogging here led me to be asked to blog for the Irish writing website

What is important when you orient yourself towards something, when you have an intention rather than a resolution, is that it is a positive thing, an action that has energy. Sometimes a resolution has an ‘ought’ quality and ‘ought’ means guilt. Resolutions may sound firmer – the stuff of Antarctic explorers but to me they can be ‘all or nothing’. Intentions can bend with you and work with you. In this case, I’m not really letting anyone else down – which is another matter and perhaps a topic for another post (saying yes to too much at once). So it’s okay that the stones have disappeared. It’s wonderful that I’m writing other stuff that I hope you’ll soon be able to read. It’s great that I’m still making still moments and observances in my own life and I may still have some stones for you before the month is out.

The long and the short of it: Story endeavours

It’s been designated Short Story Year. At this moment in time I don’t know where exactly this marvellous idea originated but I know it’s based in the UK and that doesn’t stop me from appropriating the concept and running with it, particularly since writing and reading short stories is my favourite thing. I’m also going to be involved with National Flash Fiction Day.

My aim this year on the blog is to highlight even more the short story. I will regularly post my own short story endeavours, my short fiction and also interviews with people who are involved in short story writing or have brought out collections of short stories (Bravo). I will continue to try to find a home for my short collection Random Acts of Optimism and I will continue to add to a new collection of short interrelated flash fiction Flashes of Sadness and Light, some pieces of which you will have read in my #fridayflash posts.

I was proud last year to have been published in the fine Metazen and The View from here (links are on the sidebar) and in the Voices of Angels and Eighty Nine anthologies and I will continue to submit and find places for my patient stories. Today I will make a story submission and return edits for a story which is to be published online shortly.

All this though, while I work on my first literary novel which is really taking shape. I’m so immersed in it that strange phenomenon are occurring. I have the sense of many conversations and connections running through the synapses, whispers inside my own head. So where, are the short stories in this? Well the novel is about remembrances and storytelling and it includes four standalone short stories that the protagonist creates. So I am proud to say that I am writing a novel with short stories in it. Or perhaps a “Shovel” !

While I’m here and talking about short things, I want to mention the River of Stones project that I took part in last January (See River of Stones pic on sidebar). If you check my archive for January you will get a flavour of what small stones is about. It’s a chance to record a moment in time, something beautiful, touching, difficult, raw. It only has to be a few lines long but it certainly is a wonderful way of becoming mindful and appreciating the present. Here is the website that explains all. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to log on each day but when I can I will add a small stone throughout this month. What we are as writers of short stories and otherwise is observers on the minutiae of like, on the precious and tremulous things. The small stones heighten these powers of observation and touch others.

Oh I’ve just remembered, I’ve just seen this unusual short story and poetry competition from Doire Press. The prize is publication of your own chapbook of stories or poetry. Deadline 9th January.

Here’s to a New Year of unfurling stories and the capacity to pay attention to them!